Mike Halford

Hakstol: ‘Easy decision’ to start Mason tonight

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After letting in a historically bad goal in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Caps, Steve Mason has been subjected to a number of questions — including ones asking whether he’d start tonight’s pivotal Game 3 at Wells Fargo.

The answer, according to head coach Dave Hakstol, was a no-brainer. From the Inquirer:

Hakstol said it was an “easy decision” to go back to goalie Steve Mason on Monday. Mason allowed a 101-foot goal in Saturday’s 4-1 loss, but he carried the Flyers into the playoffs and was brilliant in Game 1.

“He’s a huge part of why we’re playing in the playoffs,’ Hakstol said.

Mason deserves a shot at redemption. As Hakstol alluded to, the 27-year-old was huge during Philly’s playoff push down the stretch — the goalie of record in 17 of the last 19 games — and, let’s be honest here, Hakstol’s other option isn’t great.

While it’s true Michal Neuvirth had a very good regular season, he’s essentially played just once over the last month, missing extensive time with a torn meniscus in his left knee. It would be asking a lot of Neuvirth to step into this series and make an impact.

That said, it’s easy to see why the suggestion of a goalie switch is out there.

Yesterday, Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill made the change from Jimmy Howard to Petr Mrazek for Game 3 against the Bolts, after Howard lost the first two games of the series (though was hardly to blame).

Mrazek and Detroit responded with a 16-save shutout win over the Bolts.

After Boyle’s chicken dance, Abdelkader admits he ‘would have liked to fight him’

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Brian Boyle wanted to fight Justin Abdelkader at the end of Tampa Bay’s 2-0 loss in Detroit on Sunday.

That much was clear.

But Abdelkader wasn’t willing to go — for reasons unclear at the time — which led to Boyle busting out this chicken dance in Abdelkader’s direction:

Only afterward did the full explanation come out.

Turns out Abdelkader was not, in fact, chicken — he had his injured hand taped up and, per NHL Rule 56 (b), “any player wearing tape or any other material on his hands (below the wrist) who cuts or injures an opponent during an altercation will receive a match penalty under Rule 52 – Deliberate Injury of Opponents.”

“I would have liked to fight him,” Abdelkader said, per MLive. “I asked the ref if I cut him, is it a misconduct, and I already got one, so I got to be careful.

“Obviously, I want to stand up for myself, too, but this time of year when you got injuries and you’re banged up you got to be smart, too, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Just a few months ago, Rangers forward J.T. Miller was ejected from a game versus New Jersey for fighting Devils forward Sergei Kalinin with taped hands.

“It’s the call in the book,” Rangers head coach Alain Vingeault said afterward, per the New York Post. “If you’ve got tape above your wrist and the guy gets cut, it’s an automatic match penalty.”

Abdelkader, as mentioned, had already received a game misconduct earlier in the series, having been deemed the aggressor in a scrap with Mike Blunden at the end of Game 2.

So, he backed off.

As for his take on Boyle’s antics?

“It’s kind of funny, but if he wants to do that, that’s what he wants to show, whatever,” Abdelkader said. “It doesn’t affect me at all because I know what type of player I am.

“I stand up for myself when I’m healthy.”

Boudreau: Ducks were ‘just stupid out there’ in Game 2 loss

Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, back, looks on against the Colorado Avalanche in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The Ducks are in a big hole, having dropped both of their opening-round playoff games — at home, no less — to the Nashville Predators.

And to hear head coach Bruce Boudreau explain it, the club has only itself to blame.

“Too many penalties, for sure,” Boudreau said following his club’s second straight 3-2 loss to the Preds. “We were just stupid out there.”

The Ducks had 12 penalty minutes to Nashville’s four on Sunday night, and received just one power-play opportunity to Nashville’s five. One of the Anaheim’s transgressions proved especially costly — not long after David Perron interfered with Ryan Ellis late in the second period, Shea Weber slammed home what proved to be the game-winning goal.

Boudreau clearly wasn’t happy after the contest and, while he wasn’t pointing fingers, it’s not hard to guess which individuals he was upset with.

Ryan Garbutt took a bad unsportsmanlike conduct penalty midway through the game, and Corey Perry got nailed for two penalties in a three-minute span in the opening frame. The Ducks also seemed to get frustrated on numerous occasions throughout the night, which could’ve played a role in their lack of discipline.

And it’s that lack of discipline that really irked Boudreau.

“The penalties we take sometimes are just so selfish,” he lamented. “And so dumb.”

Disallowed goal ‘probably the turning point’ for Isles in wild win over Panthers

New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) is congratulated by New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) after scoring the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in New York. The Islanders defeated the Panthers 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
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Usually, it’s the players that decide playoff games.

But in the new-look Stanley Cup playoffs, coaches are having a bigger influence than ever.

Another coach’s challenge resulted in a huge momentum swing on Sunday night in Brooklyn, as Isles head coach Jack Capuano successfully overturned a Florida goal, correctly judging that Jonathan Huberdeau was offside prior to Aaron Ekblad‘s second period marker.

“There’s so much talk about that offside rule, but that was an incredible boost,” Thomas Hickey said, per Yahoo. “You could feel it in the building when they called ‘no goal’ and I think it gave us extra life.”

Hickey, who scored the eventual game-winner in a wild OT affair, might have a point. Ekblad’s goal would’ve made the score 3-0, a massive hole for the Isles. Instead, the Brooklynites found themselves down just two goals — and, moments after the successful challenge, Ryan Pulock scored his first of the playoffs to cut the lead to 2-1.

Nick Bjugstad would score to restore Florida’s two-goal lead but, as Hickey mentioned, the Isles had life. Shane Prince and Frans Nielsen scored to even things at 3-3, setting the stage for Hickey’s OT heroics.

Prior to tonight, the biggest — and most controversial — coach’s challenge happened during Game 2 of the St. Louis-Chicago series, in which Joel Quenneville wiped out Vladimir Tarasenko’s go-ahead goal after correctly judging that Jori Lehtera was offside.

Nobody knew how profoundly coach’s challenges — in their first year of existence — would affect the playoffs.

But it didn’t take long for everyone to figure out the answer.

“That was probably the turning point in the game,” Hickey said. “As stupid as it sounds.”

Preds go Duck hunting, again, to take 2-0 series lead

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This series couldn’t have started better for Nashville.

And it couldn’t have started worse for the Ducks.

After stealing home-ice advantage with their Game 1 win, the Preds stunned the Anaheim faithful on Sunday night, capturing Game 2 by a 3-2 scoreline to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Shea Weber scored the game-winning goal on a late second period power-play, and Pekka Rinne stopped 27 of 29 shots to push Nashville to victory, and put the Pacific Division champs in a tough spot.

Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville.

For Anaheim, Andrew Cogliano and Nate Thompson scored, with Thompon’s goal coming with less than three minutes remaining to set up an exciting finish.

The big story for the Ducks, though, wasn’t the guys on the scoresheet — it was those who failed to crack it.

After all three notched points in the series opener, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and captain Ryan Getzlaf put up goose eggs on Sunday.

Anaheim’s defense also continued to struggle offensively. Not a single one hit the scoresheet Sunday, leaving Hampus Lindholm as the only blueliner to have scored a point this series, and it was on an assist in Game 1.

Meanwhile, forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, David Perron, Jamie McGinn and Chris Stewart all remain pointless this series.

Looking ahead, this are going to be very intriguing as the teams shift to Bridgestone for Game 3.

The Preds are now in the driver’s seat, and have to be thrilled at the prospect of returning home — where they went 23-11-7 this year — with two wins already in the bag. Rinne’s been solid, the defense has held Anaheim to just two goals per game and the scoring has been balanced, with six different players accounting for the club’s six goals.

For the Ducks… yikes.

The club’s now facing the daunting task of needing to win four of the next five games — three of which will come on the road. One also has to wonder what lineup changes head coach Bruce Boudreau might consider.

Specifically, one has to wonder if Boudreau will contemplate a goalie switch.

While John Gibson can’t be faulted for either of the two losses, Boudreau could take a page from the Detroit book. Wings head coach Jeff Blashill pulled a successful goalie switch on Sunday night — after losing the first two games of their series with Tampa Bay, he parked Jimmy Howard in favor of Petr Mrazek tonight, and Mrazek posted a 2-0 shutout win.

Will the Ducks go the same route in Nashville?